Let’s talk about the way you make purchases. It’s not only the product features that matter. After quickly scrolling through the product landing page, you’ll switch to customer reviews to learn about the real experience people have with the product.
It often happens that businesses do their best to deliver a product or service that their target audiences want to buy. But later on, their customers complain that excellent customer service has turned into a frustrating experience once they’ve made the payment.
Easy. You simply need to train your customer support team to be reactive,’ you might think. But do you know only one in 26 unhappy customers turn to support reps? The rest churn.
Customer service isn’t limited to support and problem-solving. It takes proactive methods to identify areas for improvement and build stronger customer relationships. What are these methods? Read on to find out.
Customer service definition
Here’s what we mean when we say "customer service."
Customer service is every action aimed at enabling customers to make the most out of your product or service. It’s all the assistance provided by the company during the customer journey – from product demos to live chat support.
The peculiarities of B2B customer service
B2B customer service is a comprehensive concept. It goes far beyond collecting feedback and responding to complaints. And this is why.
A steep learning curve
B2B products, especially software, usually require users to go through training for successful implementation. While B2C customers typically throw instructions away, the B2B audience seeks your guidance.
In the B2B world, a customer isn’t represented by a single individual. It’s an organization. Within one contract, you may be serving two, twenty, or two thousand people.
How does it relate to your customer service strategy? Let’s take your customer interactions as an example. Tracing interactions with one person across multiple channels is relatively easy. On the other hand, delivering a consistent experience for several users from one company requires a complex CRM solution.
Speaking of CRM, B2B customer relationships can last for years… if you do customer service right.
Once you buy a product, say, on Amazon, you no longer communicate with the merchant unless you face an issue. In contrast, B2B brands need to manage customer relationships all day, every day.
As a customer of a B2B product or service provider, you stay connected to the brand until you terminate your relationship – it’s the way for you to stay up to date with the best practices, learn about new features, and get assistance. Even if you don’t turn to customer support reps, you’re supported all the way through your journey with information from newsletters, a website, knowledge base, etc.
B2B customer service often involves assigning dedicated account managers to new customers, hosting workshops for clients, maintaining a comprehensive learning hub, and many more.
In B2B, personalization efforts aren’t limited to adding a customer’s name to the email subject line. Customers expect B2B brands to be flexible and ready to serve their specific needs.
Have you ever heard of Coca-Cola changing the flavor of their drink upon request? Meanwhile, customizing SaaS products for the needs of specific businesses doesn’t sound like nonsense.
The tasks of B2B customer service agents usually include identifying the pain points of individual customers and personalizing their experience. In some cases, they might achieve it by simply adjusting pricing packages or giving extra credits. Oftentimes, they need to turn to the leadership team or IT department to request specific features.
B2B customer service needs to be proactive. To reduce churn rates – which is the main objective of customer service – you need to address issues before they become problems.
This is both the peculiarity of B2B customer service and its main challenge. As support reps are always busy addressing customer requests, finding the resources to provide proactive service isn’t easy at all. But don’t worry, we’ll tell you how you can be proactive without hiring more people for your team.
Customer service vs customer support
Both are critical components of customer experience management. But customer service isn’t equal to customer support. Quite the opposite, great customer service can reduce the number of requests sent to customer support. So, how does one distinguish between these two?
Customer support includes providing help to customers when they seek assistance. It’s reactive, short-term, and heavily focused on technical problem-solving.
Customer service aims at helping customers get the most value from the product or service. It involves proactive interaction and applies to the entire customer lifecycle. Those interactions can be in form of virtual call centers, chatbots, or a knowledge base.
Nonetheless, support can be considered one of the customer service functions. We refer to customer support as a reactive side of customer service. When proactive interaction doesn’t fully address customers’ questions, reactive support agents come on the scene to save the customer experience.
In small companies, customer support and service functions can be performed by the same agents. However, it’s critical to find a way to separate these concepts and allocate resources for delivering consistent customer service.
Customer service statistics in 2022: What’s trending now?
Why are more and more companies investing in customer service? How do B2B customers rate vendors’ customer service efforts? The following statistics will shed the light on the state of customer service in 2022:
- Eighty-three percent of top-performing B2B companies have a documented customer experience strategy in place.
- Zendesk’s CX report has shown that over 60 percent of customers have higher customer service standards since the 2020 crisis.
- Zendesk also says that 73% of business leaders see the direct connection between their customer service and business performance.
- The same report reveals that nearly half of surveyed companies will increase funding for their customer service teams by up to 25 percent this year.
- B2B customer experience rates still lag behind those of retailers. According to McKinsey & Company, the average customer index rating of B2B providers is below 50 percent.
- There’s a lot of room for improvement particularly for B2B e-commerce customer service. 94 percent of buyers face some kind of customer experience problems when buying from B2B ecommerce companies.
- Eighty-four of customers want customer service teams to anticipate their intentions and proactively offer support.
See? Plenty of businesses have already made customer service their top priority. And you need to follow their example if you also want to enjoy a better customer experience and faster business growth.
3 Examples of excellent customer service by B2B brands
Before we guide you through the process of building your own customer service strategy, let’s learn from world-famous SaaS brands.
Customer service example #1: Awario
Awario is a social media and web monitoring tool. As a platform that facilitates customer feedback collection, Awario knows how to do customer service the right way.
Quite recently, we had to reach out to the Awario support team for API credits while we were on a free trial. Free users as well as the users of the Starter and Pro plans don’t have access to the product API, and the chances of having our request approved were low.
Long story short, it took a few minutes for the customer support rep to approve our request and provide us with the API key for the remainder of the trial period.
Although the way the brand treats its customers during the trial period doesn’t necessarily reflect the quality of its customer service, this is still a great lesson for a lot of brands to learn. It often takes hours for customer service agents to reach out to their managers and get certain requests approved. By giving your agents the power to make decisions by themselves, you’ll eliminate the main barrier preventing them from delivering a great customer experience.
Customer service example #2: Slack
Slack doesn’t need an introduction. Have you noticed how easy it is to find the answers to the questions you might have about your workplace or custom integrations? Not yet? Then meet Slack’s Resources Library.
Here you’ll find the ultimate collection of tutorials, e-books, troubleshooting tips, and webinars aimed at making your experience with Slack seamless. The company even provides certification programs for developers, admins, and regular users.
While many SaaS companies have Help Centers in place, very few manage to keep them in order. Slack ensures easy navigation by providing filtering options and a search bar.
Customer service example #3: GetResponse
GetResponse is an online marketing platform for small businesses and specifically ecommerce companies. Out of 806 reviews on G2, 194 mention the quality of the company's customer service.
We always say how important it is to reply to customer feedback, and GetResponse proves it in action. Their agents reply to each and every review on G2, Trustpilot, and Capterra. By doing so, they not only demonstrate their customer service in action but also provide a better customer experience to users that didn’t reach out to them directly for some reasons.
B2B customer service best practices
Finally, how do you provide solid customer service at your company?
Should you start with collecting reviews or building a knowledge base? Do you need to hire a dedicated team, or can you entrust this project to your customer support reps? When you have no clear strategy, the process must be overwhelming. Therefore, we recommend that you take one step at a time. Below are nine steps to building a customer service strategy.
1. Assign responsible customer service agents
Your very first step towards a solid customer service plan is assigning people responsible for its implementation. Whether you train your employees to take care of the process or hire a dedicated customer service agent depends on your team's capacity and the resources for hiring. Whatever your choice is, make sure you have one or several people who can focus on this ‘project.’
Next, establish a clear customer service team structure, by defining roles and responsibilities. Roles can include customer support reps, customer success agents, QA analysts, content managers, supervisors, etc. You might also want to organize teams into several tiers by focus areas, like resolving issues, boosting brand loyalty, or educating customers.
The statistic shows that 71 percent of customers want the same agent to assist them all the time. With that in mind, it’s good to assign dedicated support reps to different audience segments when structuring your customer service team.
2. Give your reps the power to make decisions
Fifty-percent of customers are not ready to wait for more than 3 minutes to speak to support. Customers don’t want to wait for ages to hear back from their agent. Remember that whenever you make them wait, you block their work processes – as businesses, customers won’t appreciate it.
It’s best to give your customer support and service reps the power to make decisions regarding:
- Sharing discounts;
- Making refunds;
- Giving access to features.
Employee empowerment is a result of regular training on the company culture, mission, and the product itself. To make informed decisions without asking for help, your customer service agents need to know a goal and mission to work towards.
3. Choose the right channels
Customers prefer to use WhatsApp (31 percent), Facebook Messenger (25%), and Twitter direct messaging (16%) for customer service interactions. Are you sure you’re present on the right channels?
Find out which platforms your customers use and start supporting one or two of them. It’s important that you don’t create accounts on each platform available – your support team has a lot of things to do but to monitor ten channels at a time.
4. Develop an onboarding program
Do you have an onboarding program? 57 percent of respondents said their onboarding process was only ‘somewhat effective.’ Now think one more time – do you really have an effective onboarding program?
Eight in 10 users have deleted an app because they lacked guidance on how to use it. It’s now clear that the way you onboard your customers is the key to higher retention and lower churn rates.
A customer onboarding program guides new users through the process of setting up and using your product for the first time. It can include interactive walkthroughs, video tours, tooltips, native toolkits, or everything at once.
New customers should be able to familiarize themselves with your product without turning to your customer service team. Self-service onboarding is the key aspect of the product-led growth strategy allowing for better user adoption and growth.
5. Build a knowledge base
A knowledge base is your way to faster onboarding, fewer repeat questions, and more effective support. Moreover, an opportunity to find answers without turning to support is now one of the most important considerations for prospects before making a buying decision.
Don’t have a lot of resources for developing comprehensive documentation from scratch? Build it gradually – by looking into the most common support requests and replying to them in your help center.
Developing a knowledge base shouldn’t be a time-consuming, boring task. With Scribe, you can create visual process documentation and step-by-step guides in minutes. Knowledge sharing has never been so easy.
To ensure a better customer experience, you can also set up tracking of your knowledge base usage. How many people use it? Where do they get stuck? Do they finally find the information they’re searching for? It can be easily done with the dedicated customer service tool or through any web analytics solution.
6. Implement a centralized customer service system
Forty-two percent of businesses use multiple technologies for customer experience management. This might be the reason why 37% of organizations call ‘poor integration between tech systems’ the biggest barrier to improving customer experience.
Customer service tools include a help desk, live chat, CRM platform, customer onboarding software, survey tools, messaging apps and many more. The more of them are accessible through one interface, the easier it is for your customer service reps to deliver a consistent customer experience.
You can either purchase a costly all-in-one solution, like Zendesk or HubSpot or create a custom centralized system with the help of pre-built integrations.
7. Collect customer feedback
Thirty-eight percent of companies don’t run any customer relationship surveys to measure customers’ loyalty to a brand. You won’t know what you could do to strengthen your relationships with customers unless you ask them.
Collect customer feedback by running customer surveys, monitoring mentions on social media, and examining your profiles on review websites. Most importantly, ask your customers about their experience with onboarding, user training, and customer support. Use these insights to upskill your team and improve customer service.
8. Act on customer feedback
To analyze customer feedback and act on it, you need to categorize it first. Both positive and negative comments should be analyzed and sorted based on:
- root causes
Next, make sure to share customer feedback with everyone involved.
Your customer service reps deal with feedback every day. How often do they communicate it to someone outside their department? It’s critical to make customer feedback accessible by developers, marketers, sales reps, and especially the leadership team.
If there are themes that repeat too often, the leadership team should be informed of them immediately. Less frequent topics shouldn’t be ignored completely though. You should add them to the queue and address them as soon as you have the capacity for it.
Acting on customer feedback is the only way to improve customer experience in a long-term perspective. Don’t miss out on it.
9. Set measurable KPIs for customer service agents
You can measure customer service activities. You only need to define which numbers are important to you.
The metrics your customer service agents will work towards should be measurable and time-bound. It should be clear how they’re related to your bigger business goals. These internal targets might be:
- Average Response Time
- Average Resolution Time
- The number of support tickets created (makes sense to track when you want to evaluate the impact of developing a knowledge base)
- Customer Retention Rate
- Customer Churn Rate
- Customer Satisfaction Score
- Net Promoter Score (how likely is your customer to recommend your product or service?)
These KPIs will help your employees to see opportunities for improvement and create more effective processes.
Ready to create a customer service process that helps your business grow? Start with creating a self-service portal that allows customers to onboard, navigate their way around your product, and solve simple issues without turning to the support team.